[*Spoiler alert: This post may contain some spoilers from the movie Inside Out.]
July 4th carries with it so many wonderful memories. July 4, 2012...a few weeks before I got pregnant with Ben, the weekend that I realized I wanted to quit my job at a big law firm in NYC to spend more time with my family. July 4, 2013...our first with Ben, representing our wonderful lazy days of summer spent at the neighborhood lake with friends. July 4, 2014...the last weekend I had with Ben, the weekend that I sat in the sand at the lake and thought Wow, I am finally truly happy, life is good, a healthy family, wonderful job five minutes from home, close friends that are like family, good marriage, it is perfect. I am so lucky.
As I look back today, part of me feels like July 4th weekend somehow affected the events of July 7th...decisions made, or not made. I know it is just my grieving process. Some of the thoughts that cross my mind go like this:
There was something about the rain. If it hadn't rained on July 4th...would events have been different? If there had been fireworks? If I hadn't worked so hard as an attorney while Kyle was a stay-at-home dad, would I have kept Ben at home on July 7th instead of sending him to daycare and the girls to Vacation Bible School so I could just have a couple of hours purely alone at the coffee shop to read a book? (I know he died as I was sitting there, drinking coffee, thinking, reading.) If I were perfect, if I hadn't struggled with postpartum depression where Kyle took over night duty feeding Ben so I could sleep 8 hours straight...would he not have been as tired that morning? If I hadn't begged Kyle to let me get a new dog after my 14-year old best friend Sheltie died on Christmas Eve the past year...the dog that added some extra stress into our life the morning of July 7th as we were rushing to get the kids out of the house on time...would Ben still be here? Is it my fault, not Kyle's? Is it anyone's "fault"?
After Ben's death, I became intrigued by a variety of subjects and started researching concepts such as near death experiences, universal consciousness, neuroscience, histories of and commonalities between various religions (from Buddhism to Christianity to Islam), quantum physics, etc. One of the most interesting ideas I've read about came from The Fabric of the Cosmos, by Brian Greene. In layman's terms, he explains how, from a physics perspective, the past, present and future are simply illusions. “[E]vents, regardless of when they happen from any particular perspective just are. The all exist. They eternally occupy their particular point in spacetime,” he states. This means that history, potential futures, cause and effect - the "flow" of time that we consciously feel - these all are really areas of grey...not as clear cut as we all once thought. In my writing, I've explored a question of whether we can always, in some way, "sense" these moments that just are...if pain is too much to bear all at once, can we bear it a lifetime and never know it? Was there no cause and effect, but simply an event that was always happening or was to happen or had happened. Can a person grieve in reverse, early in life, so they can somehow stay strong when everyone else needs it in the future? Maybe my questions of "fault" don't even matter in reality...but my human brain and my need to grieve still struggle with those types of issues.
As you can tell, I'm living with a variety of emotions this July 4th and will probably for the rest of July and the summer. Part of my healing is accepting the fact that I can't be strong all the time. That I can wake up one morning and have joy, then experience a trigger that shakes me to tears, and it's all okay. You have to hold an emotion, feel it, then let it go. There is always a tomorrow with possibility for hope and happiness. Grief and tears are cathartic.
We took the girls to see Inside Out yesterday. I loved the movie because it reiterated something I had just discussed with a friend over lunch. It is not human to be joyful all the time...it is simply not possible. Sadness and tears play a roll in life, as well. Sometimes you have to allow yourself to feel sadness and cry, sob, weep if you need, let the tears fall...in order for joy to return. And, part of that joy is the comfort that you feel from allowing others to surround you with love. To allow them to be empathetic and touch your wounded heart...even when all of your instincts tell you to push people away, avoid pain, avoid loving and losing again. To build walls because, if you don't feel, you can never be hurt again.
But, what if we only truly experience the mysteries of God and life and love when we live "Inside Out." What if all the answers we seek can't be found in the laws of physics, objects we can touch, or things we can learn or read about, in cause and effect, in one church but not others, in anything that we previously viewed as "reality." What if the "truth" can't even be described in words or concepts that we recognize, it simply can't be grasped by the human mind. Maybe you have to be turned upside down, inside out, feel pain through the deepest love, lose part of yourself and find it again, be broken beyond recognition only to pick yourself up and put yourself back together, different but still you. To have nothing left but just the core of an imperfect "you" and God and existence and the will to survive...because life is just that wonderful. I've struggled with the question of whether it is better to have loved so deeply and lost that which you loved that it tears you apart and turns you inside out. I still struggle with breaking through my walls and allowing myself to love or be loved again, in an effort to avoid the pain we have experienced. But, this July 4th, I'm thinking that it is so very much worth it. Without it, you never truly live. Maybe being turned inside out is God asking us to search for and find something greater than ourselves and the physical reality we see around us each day. For, grief is the most profound type of love. Today, I am okay with letting go and allowing myself to simply exist, even if I am living inside out.